ENG386 202103 Undergraduate

Spring 2022
ENG 386
Applies To: 
Course Description: 

Examines questions and representations of bodily identity in comics through the lenses of disability studies and gender theory.

Bodies in Comics

Elizabeth (Betsy) Wheeler

Elizabeth (Betsy) Wheeler profile picture
  • Title: Associate Professor
  • Additional Title: Director, Disability Studies Minor
  • Phone: 541-346-3929
  • Office: 238 PLC
Department Section Description: 

This course examines human bodies in comics, focusing on intersections of disability with gender, race, and sexuality. We consider the intertwined relationship between bodies and minds that disability studies scholars call the bodymind. Change is a fundamental property of bodyminds. Sometimes we invite change; sometimes outside forces transform us. If the change is harmful, we learn what we can and figure out how to operate under new conditions. We rediscover what creativity, agency, and humanity mean. Thus our bodies can be portals into the deepest nuances of our minds and souls.

Comparing the genres of graphic memoir, speculative fiction, and superhero comics, we read Kindred, Hawkeye, El Deafo, Lighter Than My Shadow, Arkham Asylum: A Serious House on Serious Earth, and Batman comics from 1940 to the present. We draw on essays from Black, Deaf, Mad, and Disability Studies and U.S. histories of eugenics, slavery, and asylums. You will do some image-making in class and as homework, but your drawings will be judged not on their artistic talent but on the ways they reflect an understanding of comics.


A & L

Arts & Letters (A&L) courses create meaningful opportunities for students to engage actively in the modes of inquiry that define a discipline. Courses are broad in scope and demonstrably liberal in nature (that is, courses that promote open inquiry from a variety of perspectives). Though some courses may focus on specialized subjects or approaches, there will be a substantial course content locating that subject in the broader context of the major issues of the discipline. Qualifying courses will not focus on teaching basic skills but will require the application or engagement of those skills through analysis and interpretation.


Multicultural, Identity, Pluralism, and Tolerance (IP) courses examine the social construction of collective identities, the emergence of representative voices from varying social and cultural standpoints, and the effects of prejudice, intolerance, and discrimination. The purpose of courses in this category is to analyze the general principles underlying tolerance, or the lack of it.


US: Difference, Inequality, and Agency courses focus on race and ethnicity in the United States by considering two or more racial and ethnic groups.


Media, Folklore, and/or Culture courses focus on print and non-print media to explore culture and its processes of creative expression.

F-Gender/Ability/Queer Studies/Sexuality

Gender, Ability, Queer Studies, and/or Sexuality courses focus on the ways that issues of sexuality, gender, queerness, and disability are represented, critiqued, and developed in media and literature.

English Minor

English Minor courses offer students centuries of cultural experience and representation in poetry, prose, drama, film, TV, new media, and folk artifacts.  The English minor can focus and extend the values of a liberal arts education, while also providing extensive training in writing, speaking, and critical thinking.

Comics Studies Minor

Comics Studies Minor courses present students with an international, historical, and critical perspective on the art of editorial cartoons, comic books, and graphic novels, and how these forms communicate, inform, and emotionally engage their audiences.  Students will be required to think outside of accustomed disciplinary boundaries, and to analyze and experiment with the interaction of both visual and linguistic systems of meaning.

Disability Studies Minor

Disability Studies courses focus on how ableism (anti-disability prejudice) operates in different nations and how disability intersects with other forms of identity like gender, class, nationality, and race in complex and varied patterns.  Courses draw from fields like international development, health professions, design, sign language interpreting, education, and non-profit management.